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USDA school lunch changes

Schools and rules have always gone hand in hand. That hasn’t always been quite the case behind the scenes in the nation’s school cafeterias, but new requirements from the United States Department of Agriculture soon will change what’s allowed on kids’ plates.

In January, the USDA finalized new standards—the first big change in school meal requirements in 15 years—to improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million students who participate in school meal programs daily. The rules will be phased in over a three-year period, beginning in school year 2012-2013.

The final standards for healthier school meals include:

  • Fruits and vegetables every day of the week
  • Substantial increase in whole grain-rich food offerings
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk only
  • Portion sizes and calories based on students’ ages
  • Reduced saturated fats, trans fats and sodium in meals

First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled the new requirements, which are key components of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010 and that Mrs. Obama had advocated through her Let’s Move! campaign.

The new standards were in part updated based on the federal government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The American Dental Association supports federal measures that improve the eating habits of American youth, and it encourages dentists to stay abreast of nutrition recommendations such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Visit “” for the Association’s public resources on diet and nutrition.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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